Treat everything as a learning opportunity

Put aside emotion and frustration for a time, and analyze events and conversations to isolate things you can learn, so you can expand your horizons and create more positive experiences in the future.

Many a time, we keep replaying a negative conversation or situation in our mind, only to berate ourselves for behaving in a less optimal manner than we would like, or to get overwhelmed by circumstances and dig ourselves deeper into anxiety. It is not easy to get out of this mindset. A much healthier approach is to analyze the events as dispassionately as possible and attempt to identify the trends, causes, policies, and character traits of people involved. You can then file your findings away to perhaps help you rectify the situation, identify similar circumstances in the future, allow yourself to respond or act with more integrity, or avoid the situation altogether.

You can ask yourself a variety of questions to assist in this process. Say, you had a less-than-optimal exchange with a friend, leaving either one of you disgruntled. Was it bad timing? Was either of you frustrated by other circumstances in your life and the conversation came as “the last straw”? Is the person unfamiliar with your situation and making insensitive comments out of ignorance? Did you attack their choices and they became defensive? Are you unwilling to consider their point of view because it will imply you have made wrong choices? Try to remove your bias from the situation and approach it as a theoretical discussion. Where are the logical loopholes? Do you need to do some more research to be clearer in why you made the choices you had, so you can present your point of view better? Or to perhaps learn what sources there are for the other person’s views and whether they are valid and worth considering? Maybe it is better to let the topic go for the sake of preserving the friendship. Or maybe it is best to distance yourself from the friend for a time, to not let negative input interfere with your reality. I do not mean that it’s a good idea to break a relationship because of a single misunderstanding. But if someone consistently undermines your choices or brings negativity into your life, you might benefit limiting your exposure to that person.

As another example, you might find yourself in a situation where the circumstances “rule you” and you emerge with feelings of helplessness, being wronged in some manner, your rights being violated or wishes ignored. You can become an activist and passionately fight the system that has wronged you. Not everyone will feel it appropriate for the amount of time, resources, or effort required, or for possible repercussions. You can attempt to ignore the experience and shove it into the recesses of your mind, but that is not very healthy, as the emotions will likely resurface. In order to process the situation, it might be helpful to understand why things happened the way they did, what was caused by the existing political, economical, medical, or social realities, and come up with what you could have done differently, if anything. Perhaps you can learn more of your rights or find an alternative way of solving the issues that have brought you into the situation. Or maybe you can avoid the same situation altogether. Whatever the solution, a dispassionate analysis will assist you in separating the emotions from facts and seeing the causes and consequences within the flow of events.

Extremely negative situations and conversations aside, you can learn a lot from everyday experiences that seem mundane or boring. I have been to quite a few meetings or gatherings that by themselves were not especially useful or pleasurable. However, listening carefully, I’ve often been able to extract a fact, a name, a mention of something interesting into which I could look further, in order to learn more. And if nothing of interest is mentioned at all, you could strike a conversation with someone who looks interesting and see where it takes you. Perhaps the person has a hobby or an experience that you would like to learn about. There are so many different lifestyles and cultural traditions in the world, you never know what gem of an idea a conversation might uncover.

Set yourself a goal to learn something new every day, and if you have nothing else positive to recall about your day, reflect on what you have learned as a sign that a day had not been wasted.

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  1. Pingback: Resolutions? Try something new! - Fingering Zen

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